Memory under lock and key
Around 9 p.m., my father yells, “I’m going to shut the gate,” just so that everyone in the house can hear him – lest we forget that he’s walking 14 steps down the driveway and 14 steps back, totalling about 42 seconds of spine-tingling fear on whether he can make it back inside without losing a limb.
He re-enters the house, shuts the door, pulls the house key off a hook, locks the door, jiggles the door knob to make sure he’s locked it properly, places the key back on its hook, makes a half-turn on the landing and retreats to the formidable post on top of the lounge chair as the keeper of the television and four remotes for the electronic paraphernalia in the living room.
His routine sounds normal enough. Everyone has one which they complete on a daily basis: brushing their teeth, washing their hair, or avoiding those annoying telemarketers who call you in the middle of dinner, wondering if you’d like to outfit your home with some new energy-efficient windows (I don’t, so stop calling me).
But, my father’s routine doesn’t end there.
At approximately 10 p.m., this ritual returns: The perpetual motion machine of assurance. He doesn’t perform the same routine as the last time, for that would be redundant.
Before going to the basement to play his nightly game of solitaire on the computer, he pauses at the door, pulls back the curtain, looks at the deadbolt, re-jiggles the doorknob, pulls back the curtain, then heads downstairs where the opportunity of laying the Jack of Hearts on top of the Queen of Spades beckons him for 3 hours of sheer excitement.
You see, my father is like the Energizer Bunny – it just keeps going and going and going. Personally, I think that rabbit must suffer from some form of dementia or retrograde amnesia. You’ve banged the drum once, we get it!
Why does he perform these actions, over and over, again? Certainly, there must be a reason, or reasons, no matter how logical (or nutzo) they are.
But, how do you trust your own actions?
Since my father is getting on in age, it makes sense that his memory fails from time to time. New thoughts filter in (like learning to raise the toilet seat when you have to do one thing in the bathroom), while others get pushed out (like learning to raise both parts of the toilet seat when you have to do something else).
Memory loss happens to the best of us (try telling that to the next person who has to sit on the toilet seat). It is a matter of learning from prior experiences - that is, if you can remember them.
Take, for example, the time when my father went on vacation and didn’t tell me I had to change the oil in his car. There was no red light blinking on the dashboard to remind me of my “duty.” So what if the engine was leaking oil and coolant? So what if the engine almost seized? It wasn’t (entirely) my fault.
My father has stopped bringing it up since there is a large oil stain on the driveway that acts as a constant reminder of my casual carelessness.
I guess this is the reason why my father avoids asking me to help him on anything that requires a tool. It’s always interesting to see which degree of fear will wash across his face, or how he will contort his body in a fight-or-flight reaction, when I ask him if he needs a hand on one of his many ongoing projects.
He’s learned his lesson: If you want something done right, do it yourself.
Or, it could also be a matter of memory loss (which would explain why he still does ask for my assistance once in a while).
Just before my father goes to bed, he walks down to the landing leading to the basement, and yells, “Good night,” through the door. I can still hear him pulling back the curtain and re-jiggling the doorknob through the humming of my television before his trek upstairs.
I guess old habits die hard.